A Brief Summary of Venezuela’s Exceptional Situation

A Brief Summary of Venezuela’s Exceptional Situation: Written by a concerned fellow Latin American.


In one of my business courses, I heard a guy say, “The people of Venezuela are overthrowing a government that was elected democratically.”

Let us examine this statement piece by piece, shall we?

First of all, it is important to note this article is a brief summary only, so if any of the following names do not ring a bell, I would encourage you to at least have a look at their Wikipedia pages: Hugo Chavez, Leopoldo Lopez, Nicolas Maduro Moros, Juan Guaido, or Diosdado Cabello.


What people?

  • The citizens of Venezuela, a country with a democratic constitutional government that, like any other republic, elects its president.

  • In general terms, all Venezuelans lie somewhere along the political spectrum between the progressive and the conservative extremes. Nicolas Maduro, one of Venezuela’s current two presidents, is recognized to lean more towards the progressive, liberal side.

  • Maduro and his political party allegedly held deeply flawed elections in 2018, the results of which were contested and not recognized by most Venezuelans, nor by many influential nations such as the United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, and various Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, Argentina, and Brazil.


When did the attempt to overthrow Maduro happen?

  • First things first: Nicolas Maduro’s administration was not considered to be overthrown. By definition, the events that unraveled the week of January 21st, 2019 did not constitute a coup d’état. According to Wikipedia, a coup d’état is “an illegal and overt seizure of a state by the military or other elites within the state apparatus.”

  • Juan Guaido, a 35-year-old legislator, and president of the National Assembly, was sworn into power on January 23rd as an interim president legally, and non-violently, following Venezuela’s constitution. Guaido appealed to three articles (233, 333, and 350) of this rather important document in order to make the announcement.

  • Moreover, although most of the western news sources I have read so far state “Guaido declared himself” president, he did not. Guaido, as mentioned earlier, began his announcement by proclaiming these sound words:

“This table cannot stand without all its legs: we’re talking to the military family, who also suffers this crisis. We call on the Armed Forces, who need to assume the responsibility. There’s someone usurping the presidency, someone who broke the chain of command, and you know it.”

He also called for free elections and summoned the people and the Armed Forces of Venezuela, in addition to the international community in order to make it a reality.


Why and how did this happen?

  • First, the supreme court under Maduro’s administration seized power from the legislature. This means that the powers of the national assembly were passed to the supreme court, thus further centralizing Maduro’s power and inviting a dictatorship. For more on this, see here if you are fluent in Spanish, and here if you are fluent in English.

  • Then, there Venezuela went through fraudulent elections in 2018,, in which Maduro was supposedly elected, which would allow him to stay in power for another term, thus continuing the dictatorship.

  • This is why Guaido and the opposition (which constitutes the vast majority of Venezuelans) are fighting back. Venezuela is currently facing a major economic and humanitarian crisis. Falling oil prices, and mismanagement of resources since the death of Hugo Chavez has led almost one in every 10 Venezuelans to flee the country, mainly to their neighbouring countries, Colombia and Ecuador. Moreover, many of the 9 Venezuelans that stay do so because, unfortunately, they do not have the money or connections to leave.

  • Lack of freedom. Because of the dictatorship, there are major food and medicine shortages all across the nation. Under Maduro’s administration, there were substantial cuts to health care funding. Consequently, Venezuelans struggled with the re-emergence of polio and diphtheria, among other previously eradicated diseases.

  • With all of this in mind, the current hyperinflation rate of the Venezuelan currency (Bolívar), which reached 80,000% in 2018, does not come as a surprise.


And now, what?

  • A period of transition. Guaido, along with his peaceful resolutions, might consider amnesty for Nicolas Maduro and the military high command, who, as of January 31st, 2019, still back Maduro. This would come in an effort to make the administrative transition faster and less painful. However, Maduro’s amnesty would not come without a cost to him.

  • Venezuela would also have to reaffirm ties with affected countries from Maduro’s undiplomatic personality, including the U.S., who currently receives 47% of Venezuela’s oil exports.

  • Thursday January 31, 2019: European Parliament politicians recognised Mr Guaido on Thursday as the acting head of state.

  • Now the opposition in Venezuela are calling for new, transparent presidential elections.


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